Holidays On Trays

Natalia Acuna opted for mashed potatoes with her Thanksgiving-themed turkey and dressing meal served at Hutchins Elementary Thursday. El Campo ISD is considering eventually implementing a federal program offering free lunches to all students, if they can determine it would be financially viable. 

Free lunch could become a part of every Myatt Elementary student’s daily routine in the next school year, if the El Campo ISD school board chooses to pursue a federal program that reimburses schools in low-income areas for meals served.

Myatt Elementary had the highest number of students enrolled in free and reduced lunch during the last two school years in ECISD at 87 percent in 2018 and 85 percent in 2019. This would make switching to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Provisions lunch plan financially viable, according to Food Services Director Scott Gelardi.

“We’re already feeding most of those kids for free as it is right now,” Gelardi said. “It’s a good place to start.”

Currently, ECISD offers free breakfast to students district-wide. A full-priced lunch costs $2.30. If the district were to switch to the CEP program, it would be reimbursed by the Texas Department of Agriculture $3.50 for children who are considered “categorically eligible” and less than $0.40 for students who used to pay full price for meals.

“It’s a numbers game, and you have to sit down and look at the numbers, and make sure that it’s financially viable to do,” Gelardi said.

ECISD will submit data on their students to the TDA who then determines how much to reimburse the school district based on the number of “categorically eligible students.” A refund rate at a $3.50 cent per meal is offered for categorically eligible students, which includes state-funded pre-k students, children who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs and students who are homeless, migrants or runaways.

With the CEP program, parents would no longer need to fill out a free and reduced lunch application.

It would simplify the lunch process at Myatt for parents, teachers and students, Superintendent Kelly Waters said.

If the CEP system works well at Myatt, the district may eventually pursue implementing CEP lunches at all El Campo schools, according to Gelardi.

“We’re looking to do that in the future, but we’ll see how numbers play out,” Gelardi said.  “That’s really a big determination of what we can do.”

Gelardi initially brought the CEP program to the school board’s attention during the October meeting, and will present more information at the meeting on Nov. 19.

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